Monday, April 04, 2005

April 4th

This morning I found myself wide awake at 4:00 am. Not unusual, as this is when Raelin hits the wall and ceases falling asleep to Kevin's voice and needs her deedees (aka nursing). Her room was still silent though, and i was unable to get back to sleep. My mind wandering, I started thinking about my friend Jake. Various memories flitted through my brain and I wondered why they were visiting my now. It's amazing how organized our subconscious is. Today is April 4th, and the 9 year anniversary of his death.

April 4th 1996 was just a few days after spring break. I had moved into a new apartment on campus, conveniently located one floor above Jake's apartment. I awoke startled to pounding on the door just before 8 am. I knew Jake had an 8 am class, and being a straight-out goof ball, it was not out of the realm of possibility that he would come haul me out of bed for coffee before class. A goofy smile on my face, but a little apprehensive cause pounding was a bit out of character, I ran to the door hoping my new room mates wouldn't be woken up. I wasn't prepared to see Kate, Jake's roommate, standing on the other side of the door. I wasn't prepared for her to avoid my eyes and ask for Kristen, my room mate and building RA. I wasn't prepared for the shakiness in her voice and her refusal to answer my question, "What's going on? Where's Jake? Is this about Jake?" Kristen stumbled to the door and Kate grabbed her hand and led her downstairs. I followed, my heart pounding, an odd lump rising in my throat.

The apartment door was open, paramedics were walking in and out of Jake's room. Matt, Jake's room mate sat on the couch, his head cradled in his hand. I sank into a chair, still a bit dumbfounded and frankly, in denial. The memories are like slides- the flash of the camera bouncing off the hallway walls. My brain frantically wondering what they might be photographing- drugs? did he have some weird reaction and they found his pot stash? kate huddled beside me on the chair, Kristen on the other side. Someone was whimpering. One of the paramedics came out of the bedroom and walked over to us. "I'm sorry...." he said. Next slide- the conscious cracking open of my heart as i leaned against Kristen, a woman I hardly knew, and cried.

It is actually easier to sift through the memories of that morning than the ones that proceed it- the hours spent in coffee shops, jogging, swimming laps at the pool, watching movies at the library, navigating our messy relationship that included one girl in love (me), one guy in denial (him), and his girlfriend, 3000 miles away (ironically in my homestate of Maine). We had sorted it out (or rather, sorted her out) just 10 days before his death. The finding of a soulmate is a rare thing, except perhaps the finding of 2, and I feel incredibly blessed that the one who couldn't stay, Jake, kindly made the introduction to me of one who could, Kevin. And then sent me a sweet, abandoned dog, jake (we'll use a little j) to make the transition that much easier. Though there is very little that is easy about accepting the unexpected still mysterious death of a 23 year old.

One of my best friends, Carmen, is Jake's sister. We didn't meet until a few days after Jake's death, though I had heard about her for months. Jake talked about her a lot, about how he wished we could meet, he wanted her to have a friend like me, he thought we would get along. He had some foresight about relationships, that one. In ways big and small, he has stayed present in my life, and for that I am deeply grateful.

Nine years is a long time. I've gotten married, started a family, moved across the country. At times my friendship with Carmen has felt like the primary relationship, but of course we are uniquely bonded through her brother. To wake up this morning to these memories is startling in some way, and I resisted crawling out of bed to write in real time the memories and thoughts that poured through. It's been a long time since I've reflected in writing, about Jake. And in many ways, it comforting to have such strong feelings after so long. One of the most painful things about grieving a loved one is when it gets easier... it seems contradictory, but I think most people who have lived through something similar would agree. Pain seems to bring them closer, it is palpable for something that is no longer able to be touched. So for today, I will take the flooding of emotions and memories that are often packed away. It's good to have my friend back, for awhile.


Blogger eetraveling said...

That's really moving, Kelly. Thank you for sharing.

7:40 PM  

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